As I wrote the other day, the Houston Astros could use another left-handed reliever.
Tony Sipp was highly desired by other teams after his breakout 2015 season. However, he returned to the Astros because he thought the team was on the brink of World Series. The team took a step back in 2016 but has reloaded for the 2017 season this offseason. Like the team, Sipp took a step back as well.
Sipp is a rebound candidate for 2017, but he will be on the team for the next two seasons under his three-year, $18 million dollar contract. A free agent candidate that I suggested the Astros could sign was Travis Wood. Last year he pitched in the World Series-winning Cubs bullpen and is a left-handed reliever as well.
The only problem with Wood is that he would not have been cheap to sign, especially away from the Cubs. Wood also wants to try to get back into the rotation, which is not something that I think the Astros would be interested. There have been some whispers that any further additions will be through trades. Jim Crane has spent some money this offseason, not sure how much flexibility they have left hovering around $120 million dollar payroll.
We talked about Wood on this week’s Talking Stros.
Any trade market options?
Wish there was a cheaper option out there. Enter the Detroit Tigers with a cheaper option. If the Stros really want a proven left-handed reliever, then Justin Wilson is your guy. The 6’2” lefty with four years of service time could be available via trade. Jon Morosi tweeted that the Stros asked the Tigers about Wilson’s availability.
That does not mean that a trade is happening or imminent. It does mean that Jeff Luhnow is looking to improve his bullpen. There are internal options in-house with Kevin Chapman, Cionel Perez, and Remin Guduan. However, the 2017 team could use an experienced reliever. We can hope that Sipp can bounce back, but Wilson could be a backup or solid reliever addition.
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Wilson also brings the heat, throwing his fastball at about 95 mph via Fangraphs compared to Sipp’s 90 mph. He also throws a curveball and cutter, but there is a surprising stat about Wilson. The importance of left-handed pitchers is to come in and face a tough left-handed hitter. Wilson allowed a higher batting average versus left-handed hitters in his career, .254 as compared to .215 to right-handers.
Like Sipp, Wilson struggled a little in 2016 with a 4.14 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He may not be the perfect option for the Stros, but he is under team control for the next two seasons. Maybe a little competition will help Sipp return to his 2015 form. It shouldn’t cost a lot in a trade for Wilson.
Sipp could become the situational lefty and Wilson could be a guy to pitch to both righties and lefties. It’s only speculation at the moment.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***